This is the Aston Martin DB2/4 built coupe by Bertone, it’s the only one ever made, though there were some additional convertibles built, and it’s recently been restored back to original condition.
This car represents a fascinating historic “what if?’ – Bertone had hoped that Aston might appoint them to build the upcoming DB4 model, though this job would instead be assigned to Touring of Milan, who would then set the style language for the company through the 1960s.
Fast Facts – The Aston Martin DB2/4 Coupe by Bertone
- The Aston Martin DB2/4 was introduced in 1953 as an evolution of the earlier DB2 model. The DB2/4 marked a departure towards a more practical and family-oriented GT car, while retaining the performance characteristics that Aston Martin was known for. This model incorporated several improvements over the DB2, including increased cabin space and improved performance.
- The DB2/4 was powered by a 2.6 liter Lagonda straight-six, originally designed by W.O. Bentley. This engine was later upgraded in the DB2/4 MkII to a more powerful 2.9 liter version, further improving the car’s performance. The engine’s double overhead camshaft layout was advanced for the time, and it gave the car a top speed of 120 mph.
- Although primarily designed as a road car, the DB2/4 also had a notable presence in motorsport during its production. It competed in various high-profile international racing events including the Monte Carlo Rally and the Mille Miglia. Its competitive outings helped to cement Aston Martin’s reputation as a manufacturer of high-performance sports cars and established them as a key rival for Jaguar.
- The Aston Martin DB2/4 Coupe you see here was designed by Franco Scaglione and built by Bertone in Italy. It features a far sleeker and more modern body than the standard DB2/4, and had Aston chosen Bertone instead of Touring of Milan, the Aston Martin FB4, DB5, and DB6 could have looked a lot like this car.
The Aston Martin DB2/4
The Aston Martin DB2/4 was released in 1953 as the replacement for the earlier DB2 and remarkably, it was designed by a 17 year old draftsman named John Turner. In many respects the DB2/4 was an incremental update, with a wraparound windscreen, larger chrome bumpers front and rear, repositioned headlights, and an unusual hatchback rear end.
The DB2/4 was initially powered by the W. O. Bentley-designed Lagonda straight-six with a displacement of 2.6 liters producing 125 bhp. In 1953 it began to be replaced by the 2.9 liter version of the same engine offering 140 bhp and a top speed of 120 mph – fast for the time.
As with earlier Astons the DB2/4 has a steel chassis with a separate body, this would allow coachbuilders to create their own unique body designs for the model. The primary production bodies were initially made by Mulliners of Birmingham however this was switched over to Tickford in Newport Pagnell, as company owner David Brown had bought Tickford to bring all aspects of Aston Martin production under his control.
In 1955 Aston Martin released the DB2/4 Mk II model, buyers could opt for an uprated engine with larger valves and a higher compression ratio which gave 165 bhp, the car also has some minor exterior styling tweaks.
The DB2/4 was offered in two major body styles, the two-seat coupe called the “Sports Saloon,” and the drophead coupe – this was a convertible with a thick, solidly built folding roof that made the car feel more like a coupe when it was up.
Aston would keep the DB2/4 in production for four years between 1953 and 1957 when it was replaced by the Aston Martin DB Mark III.
The Arnolt-Bertone-Aston Martin DB2/4 Coupe
The story of how Italian design firm Gruppo Bertone, better known simply as Bertone, came to design and build a series of custom Aston Martins in the 1950s is fascinating, and it was essentially all thanks to one man – a larger-than-life American known as Stanley “Wacky” Arnolt.
Arnolt was a Chicago industrialist who had acquired his nickname after he bought the rights to a small outboard boat motor called the Sea-Mite. He demonstrated it in rough weather by piloting a small boat from St. Joseph, Michigan to Chicago across Lake Michigan – his publicity stunt attracted a lot of attention with some local media calling it “wacky.”
The nickname stuck and Arnolt quickly adopted it, recognizing how valuable it could be for personal branding. After the outbreak of WWII Arnolt made a small fortune selling Sea-Mite engines and other equipment to the US government, then after the war he had the money to pursue his true passion – sports cars and motor racing.
It was on a trip to the 1952 Turin Auto Show, one of the most prestigious in the world at the time, that Arnolt met Giovanni Bertone, the founder of Gruppo Bertone and one of the most important men in the world of Italian automotive design.
The two would become friends and Arnolt would contract Bertone to design and build a number of cars over the years, all of which he would then sell in the United States. The first cars were rebodied MGs which were followed by some Aston Martins, then Bentleys, then Bristols.
These Arnolt-Bertone cars have now become highly sought after by collectors due to their good-looks, rarity, and the incredible story behind them. Among the most valuable are the Astons, which had originally been called Arnolt-Astons before Aston Martin intervened and stopped the practice after the third car had been built.
In total, there would be seven Arnolt-commissioned, Bertone-designed and built Aston Martins made. All were based on the DB2/4 chassis and six were convertibles with just a single coupe made – the car you see in this article above and below. There have been rumors for years of an eighth car, but as of the time of writing it hasn’t surfaced.
All of these Bertone Astons were designed by Bertone’s Franco Scaglione and they featured styling that was years ahead of what Aston themselves were turning out at the time. All of the cars were powered by the 2.6 liter straight-six producing 125 bhp, and all seven of the known cars are still in existence today.
The Bertone Aston Martin DB2/4 Coupe Shown Here
The car you see in this article is the only Aston Martin DB2/4 Coupe by Bertone that was made, and amazingly it remains in full numbers matching condition today even almost 70 years after it was first built.
It’s believed that this car was commissioned for Henri Pigozzi, founder of Société Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile, better-known as Simca. It was planned to be the first in a limited production run however only a single car would be made.
The car was later shown by Bertone on their stand at both the 1957 and 1958 Turin Motor Shows, likely in the hopes that Aston Martin would select them to develop the upcoming DB4 model, however this job would instead be tasked to Touring of Milan.
Over the next few decades the car made its way through a few hands, always in private ownership, until it finally ended up with its current owner who commissioned Aston Martin specialists Kevin Kay Restorations in Redding, California to undertake a full concours restoration.
The car was returned to exact original specification and it was finished in time to be shown at the prestigious 2023 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – where it won First in Class. It’s now been invited to compete at the 2024 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.
It’s now due to roll across the auction block with RM Sotheby’s at their New York auction on the 8th of December with a price guide of $1,200,000 – $1,600,000 USD. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images ©2023 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.